[Review] Kimber Warrior: A New 1911 Era

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The 1911 is well over 100 years old now…

And has served in two world wars and fought in everything from the frozen hills of Korea to the sweltering heat of Iraqi sand dunes.

Colt 1911
Colt 1911

But this classic pistol has evolved a long way since that old GI model that first saw combat in the trenches of Europe.

In this article, I’m going to review the Kimber Warrior, a modern-day version of the 1911.  This is a long-term assessment as I have owned the pistol for many years and actually carried it on duty as a deputy sheriff for much of that time.  

Author's Kimber Warrior
Sean’s Kimber Warrior

It is my sincerest hope to introduce some of you to the 1911 platform and detail my experiences with the Warrior to you all.  For those more familiar with the Plastic Fantastic (Glock) I’ll make contrasts and comparisons anchored to those famous Austrian firearms.

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The Handgun Evolved

The 1911 was an incredible invention.  

Rock Island Armory 1911 GI Midsize
Rock Island Armory 1911 GI Midsize

If you study the era in which it was born and the effect it had on history, you’ll find out it was an important part of the evolution of firearms.  When John Moses Browning (a.k.a. The Revered One) came out with the 1911 people were still running around on horses and trains.

The West had mostly been won with revolvers and lever-action rifles—New Mexico and Arizona were still territories and had not been inducted into the Union!

To understand the impact of the 1911 you have to understand that reloading revolvers were no easy task in the old west.  You could shoot pretty quick, but wheel-guns up until the Colt Model 1898 often had gated cylinders—meaning, you had to load one bullet at a time!  

Although theoretically possible, this NOT a realistic reload speed for revolvers!

The 1911 changed all that with the 7-round magazine which could be quickly switched out.

There have been a lot of iterations of the 1911 since then.  Samuel Colt created perhaps some of the most iconic and there is a storied history of the many wars the gun has served in over the last century.  The weapon has an impressive service history.

The Kimber Warrior

1911’s have always been popular with at least some folks but you can actually see daylight through some of the older models because of the loose tolerances.  

Kimber looked at the 1911 market and saw people were taking base model pistols and upgrading them with performance-enhancing parts: barrels, sights, triggers, etc.  

They considered the market demand and started making match-grade guns from the git-go.  Many models ensued, long, medium, compact, and all costing a relative premium compared to the “average” pistol.

My experience with the Kimber Warrior started around 2007, during my final years as a patrol deputy.  I was always searching for a “better” pistol in the likely event I might have to use it. I’d carried other models and found them abysmally lacking in reliability.  

The Warrior drew me in.

The sleek, black, design, tritium sights, skeletonized trigger, and accessory rail had me excited about the possibilities.  I finally saved up the cheddar to purchase one, got a Streamlight for the rail, and a nice holster to attach it to my duty belt.

Remember: Buy once, cry once.
Remember: Buy once, cry once.

Impressions

Compared to the polymer pistols of today, 1911s are boat anchor heavy.  My Gen 5 Glock 17 is 1 pound, 9.2 ounces empty. The Kimber Warrior tips the same scales at 3 pounds, 9.6 ounces.  It’s all steel and would make a fine club if you ran out of ammo.

I never noticed this when I wore a duty-belt but when I switched to a suit and tie, the 1911 threatened to pull my pants down.

Compared to the blocky pistols of today, the 1911 is beautiful, even sexy.  The slim design delivers amazing power. It is a big gun, and the nearly half-inch hole at the muzzle spits out 230 grains of hate (or love depending on your perspective).  

The sweeping lines, beaver-tail, slide serrations, subtle rail and long safety all whisper utility while the surrounding black is accented by the matching silver trigger, skeletonized hammer, and barrel creating an overall refined, perhaps urbane look.

Performance

In the performance department, the gun is all business.  

Perhaps foreshadowed by the elegant looks, the Warrior is highly accurate.  In a recent range session, I plinked away from 15 feet to see what kind of groups I could make with each 8-round magazine.  

The groups were small with several of the rounds going through the same hole. Even stretching out to 25 yards my groups reflect an accuracy I don’t enjoy with other pistols.

This group is roughly 2 inches from 15 feet
This group is roughly 2 inches from 15 feet

A large part of this accuracy I attribute to the trigger.  If you are familiar with single and two-stage triggers in rifles, the Kimber has a single.  There is no uptake, no pressing the trigger causing it to slowly move back until it breaks.

The Warrior trigger simply breaks when you press it (average at 3.13 pounds on the Lyman Digital scale provided by Brownells).  

During a recent qualification course the Kimber Warrior placed most of the required 24 rounds in an area you could cover with your palm
During a recent qualification course the Kimber Warrior placed most of the required 24 rounds in an area you could cover with your palm

The .45 caliber is a beast.  It’s so fun to shoot this gun you forget what you’re going through until you pick up a 9mm again.  Recoil is significant but the Kimber is definitely up to the task. The daylight seen through the holes in your target is surprising.  

The round is known for both its velocity and its penetrative power, a devastating combination.

In the photos above you see a 230 grain .45 compared with a 115 grain 9mm. The size difference is pretty significant. On the bottom right, the .45 case can hold the 9mm with room to spare
In the photos above you see a 230 grain .45 compared with a 115 grain 9mm. The size difference is pretty significant. On the bottom right, the .45 case can hold the 9mm with room to spare

Several years ago, I carried this gun through my POST instructor training, a weeklong class where I learned how to teach police officers to shoot.  The Warrior really banged away, accurately clearing my targets.

However, being surrounded by a sea of plastic guns, I rapidly noticed some differences.

What’s Different?

There are a number of the things that are different about the Warrior (compared to a Glock).  First off, the ergonomics, in my mind, are better on the Kimber. The width of the gun is thinner, from slide to grip.  

I feel like the gun has a little better natural point of aim, just pulling it out of a holster and pointing it has me lining up on target with little to no adjustment.

In addition, my hand fits it well.  This comes from the single-stack magazine, a trade-off allowing for fewer rounds but a nice, beveled, oblong grip.  

The slabs or grip panels that came on the Warrior were nice and grippy but I preferred the leaner profile and thumb groove on the Magpul version so I could better reach my mag release.

During the Instructor training, I realized I was manipulating my weapon so much more than everyone else.  Considering most folks had Glock 17s, 19, or Smith M&Ps, I had an average of half to less-than-half the round count of those shooters.  

Carrying five Wilson Combat magazines with a capacity of 8…I was constantly reloading.

Wilson Combat 1911 Magazine

Wilson Combat 1911 Magazine

Prices accurate at time of writing

The tolerances of the Warrior are also extremely tight.  While I think this helps for accuracy, it can also cause other issues.  I learned to run it “wet” compared to other guns (meaning more lubrication).  

During many of the training events I attended, I found the Kimber was finicky with certain types of ammunition.  Running a certain brand of frangible ammo, I regularly experienced malfunctions: usually failures to eject.  

This often became frustrating during qualifications where time is a huge factor.

Part and parcel to the single-stage trigger is an external hammer.  This may be new to some readers, but it finds its origins in revolvers, where a hammer is cocked back, then released by the trigger to strike a firing pin.  

In most cases, this happens automatically when the slide is racked. Chambering a round also puts the hammer back, ready to fire.

With a round chambered, the hammer back, and the external safety on, you have achieved Condition One (please research Col. Jeff Cooper and the “modern technique” for more about his.  This represents a 1911 in complete readiness.

Magazines can be an issue.  I have a few that aren’t as reliable as others, I’m not always certain why.  With the Kimber I always tried to use quality magazine and these often came at a premium price.

Competition 1911 with Red Dot
Not really practical for EDC carry…but it does have a flared mag well!

Another issue related to all single-stack weapons is a relatively narrow magwell.  With practice (of course) comes mastery, but ramming a narrow magazine home under stress can be a bit more challenging compared to the brick-like Glock.  

So what works?  

I’ve tried several different lubes over the years and just about anything I used was okay.  I’ve used Remington Oil, Break-Free CLP, whatever. The point is using a bit more than you’d need with a Glock.  

Anything from our 4 Best Gun Cleaning Kits will have everything you need.

All Gun Cleaning Kits
Reviewed Gun Cleaning Kits

I lubed the end of the barrel around the barrel bushing and both sides of the slide rails. Make sure it’s nice and coated, then clean up any excess on the outside.

As far as magazines go, I’ve used the OEM ones and they are okay.  There are a lot of companies out there making magazines for 1911s. I wanted as many rounds as I could carry so went with Wilson Combat.  

Carrying 8 in each mag and having them work reliably was worth the price to me—especially considering these were the tools of my trade at the time.

Ultimately, you need to try and find the combination that works for you and this takes time and testing out at a range.

By the Numbers

Accuracy 5/5

Without a doubt, this is one of the most accurate pistols I have fired.  The five-inch barrel combined with the match-grade, skeletonized, trigger make this gun a powder-fueled laser.

Reliability 3/5

I wish this were better.  The gun functions amazingly well under a pretty strict diet of the right magazines, ammo, and maintenance.

Customization 5/5

There is rich aftermarket for 1911s in general.  This is the very source market Kimber tapped into.  You can buy upgrades for every part, apply attachments to the rail, and get customized grips panels.

Looks 5/5

1911s are beautiful guns to me.  Granted, the gun doesn’t appeal to everyone.

Price 3/5

As mentioned above, the MSRP of $1,392.00 stings quite a bit especially in the face of a Glock—which eats all ammo, isn’t picky about being cleaned, is reliable, and provides decent accuracy at less than half the price.  But, a Glock is not, a 1911.

Overall 4/5

The Kimber Warrior is an outstanding weapon, both aesthetically pleasing and accurate.  It delivers one hell of a punch with the .45 caliber rounds. If you are a buyer who is strictly into guns for self-defense and can only purchase one, I’d steer clear of this shooter for the reasons mentioned above.  

If you are a bit of a collector, well then—every gun safe needs to have a 1911 in it and you can’t go wrong with the Warrior.

The Harbinger of a New Era

Okay let’s face it: the 1911 was an amazing advancement for those coming out of an age of wheel guns.  

The replaceable magazine rapidly changed the game when it came to combat with a pistol. No longer did one have to hide behind a water trough hoping they could load each cylinder before Black Bart got the drop on them again.

Author's Kimber Warrior (2)
Sean’s Kimber Warrior shows a little wear – but that just proves it’s character

That being said, the 1911 holds a special place in history.  While still a viable weapon, there are better options in my opinion.  Keep in mind I carried my Kimber to SWAT callouts, manhunts, and critical incidents of various natures.  

The gun is terribly accurate. But it also runs optimally in a much thinner margin of variables than I prefer.  Today’s pistols may not have the stunning accuracy, but they are more forgiving.

With the right ammo, the right magazines, and proper training, the Kimber Warrior is a force to be reckoned with.  Its accuracy is worth the price you pay at the gun store.

While the capacity is somewhat limited compared to modern combat pistols, the .45 is an absolute devastator of a round.  For those who would hold accuracy and power over volume, the Warrior is an excellent choice.

What is your favorite 1911? Still EDC one for CCW or duty? If .45 ACP isn’t for you, don’t forget that 1911s now come in other flavors – check out our top picks for Best 1911 in 10mm and Best 9mm 1911s!

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Robert
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Robert

Three years ago my department authorized the on duty use of Kimber .45’s. Having previous experience with a Warrior, that’s what I went with. I loved the accuracy in the previous gun but the reliability wasn’t the best.
I bought a new Warrior late 2015 and went to shooting. I started with all Wilson mags, descent Ammo. Now I’m nearly 3000 rounds in and not one hiccup! I always shot well during qualifications but now I regularly ace the course.
Nice article, keep up the good work.

Mike Slisher
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Mike Slisher

A Kimber Compact CDP was my first 1911 bought NIB in 2001. As long as I change the recoil spring every 1000 rounds, it will run 100%. I also use Wilson mags exclusively. A Springfield Armory Mil-Spec came home with me one day in 2010. After initial break in, it has been 100% also. I don’t carry them often anymore, but I do trust them when I do.

Jeff
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Jeff

When I dove into the 1911 realm 7 or 8 years ago I looked at, researched, just about every brand and option out there. Price was a determining factor for me. I couldn’t afford a $2400 firearm. Dependability and accuracy were no. 1 with price becoming second. I decided to buy a Ruger SR1911 ($800) and was satisfied until the barrel lock up started to loosen causing low shots. I’ll be replacing the barrel with a Brown barrel this winter. I moved to my favorite 1911 which is the Springfield Armory 1911-A1 in both 9mm and 45 acp. I’ve put… Read more »

Mark Wynn
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Mark Wynn

Original 1980s purchased, Series 70 Colt Gold Cup with aftermarket adjustable Triticon target sights, Pachymer wrap-around grip, extended grip safety with hammer, Wilson full length guide rod, appropriate springs for various loads, and buffer. I feel there are better pistols to carry in self-defense mode, but a Colt-blue Gold Cup, virually custom-finished in the day, is beautiful, has a heritage, fun to shoot at the range … and is still more accurate than moi.

Ed K
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Ed K

WOW! Loved this article – Great writer. I agree with everything you covered in this article. I am a FIRM believer in the Kimber 1911 line. The first Kimber 1911, full size, (45), was not mine and I could shoot the center out of targets; unfortunately I had to give it back. I tried the Glock and Sig – not even close. I’m back to Kimber 1911 (9) in the 4″ and 3″ and even have a 22 in the 5 inch which is so fun to target shoot. Yes expensive, but I find worth the price.